Cristiano Ronaldo, Al-Nasr, Saudi Arabia Pro League lecturer

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Riyadh, Saudi Arab , Cristiano RonaldoThe future of the following is the subject of intense speculation manchester unitedThe decision to terminate the 37-year-old’s contract came last month. it means that the former real madrid And juventus The forward is now available to sign for any club as a free agent, but despite his incredible track record and status as a global superstar, sources have told ESPN there is a lack of interest portugal Captains of major clubs in Europe.

The Saudi Arabian team is owned by Al-Nasr FC. emerged as a giver, is ready to pay Ronaldo £200 million a year to move to the Saudi Pro League. But how likely is it that Ronaldo will leave European club football to pursue a career in the Middle East? And what would the experience be like in Saudi Arabia?

ESPN went to Riyadh to find out.

Is there a Saudi Arabian league? How many teams? When do they play?

The Saudi Pro League is a 16-team competition, known as the Roshni Saudi League (RSL) for sponsorship reasons. It became fully professional in 2007, with league football beginning in 1976 with eight teams. From the 2023–24 season, the RSL will be expanded to an 18-team league. The Saudi league also follows a similar match pattern to the European league, with midweek and weekend fixtures, and runs from August to May.

The top four teams qualify for the Asian Champions League: Saudi champions Al Hilal are the current Asian champions and the competition’s most successful club with four titles – ahead of one South KoreaPohang Steelers. The top two teams in the RSL qualify for the Asian Champions League, the third place goes to the King’s Cup (the oldest domestic cup competition) winner and a playoff for the final berth.

Is Al-Nassr FC, the biggest team in the league, a club linked to Ronaldo?

No. The largest and most successful team in Saudi Arabia is Al Hilal, based in the capital Riyadh. Al Hilal have won 18 league titles and been runners-up on 15 occasions. He is also the current Asian champion. Al-Nassr, also based in Riyadh, and Al-Ittihad (based in Jeddah) are the two teams considered as Al Hilal’s biggest rivals.

Al-Nasr have won nine league titles, last claiming one in 2018–19, while Al-Ittihad’s most recent – ​​their eighth in total – came in 2008–09. Still, no one can compete with Al Hilal right now. They play at the King Fahd Stadium with a capacity of 67,000, while Al-Nassr’s Mrisool Park holds only 25,000 spectators. But while Al Hilal draw full attendances for some games at the King Fahd, their friendlies at the Saudi-owned Newcastle United On Thursday, the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium with a capacity of 22,000 was less than half full despite all tickets for the game being sold.

Ronaldo may have to adjust to a different experience of playing in front of some packed stadiums and some with empty seats. Or, perhaps, he will be the big attraction that ensures capacity crowds wherever he plays in the state.

Earlier this year it was announced that Al Hilal and Al-Nasr would relocate to a new stadium with a capacity of 40,000. A new development on the outskirts of Riyadh called the Qidiya project – a sports “city” that will also include the construction of a Formula One race-track – includes plans to build the Qidiya clifftop stadium, which the two teams will share.

The Qidiya project is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 initiative, which aims to transform Saudi society by the end of the decade.

Who is the highest paid player in the league?

Salaries of playing figures in Saudi Arabia are not made public, but sources have told ESPN that Al Hilal and Al-Nasr pay the highest, with the former Manchester United forward Odion Ighalo Reportedly earning £250,000 a week at Al Hilal. Ighalo, 33, earned £150,000 a week at United during his loan spell from Shanghai Shenhua – half his weekly wages at the Chinese team – but Nigeria The international earned £30,000 a week with Watford between 2014 and 2017, reflecting his status during his career.

Sources have said that all of Saudi Arabia’s squad during the 2022 World Cup play their club football in Saudi, as they are not only paid highly but are also given houses in special housing complexes as part of their contracts. Huh. According to the source, the players are “treated like rock stars.”

Another source told ESPN that Saudi players earn money equivalent to the wages paid by Premier League clubs, with no personal income tax obligations in the country. In contrast, in the United Kingdom, income over £125,000 per year is taxed at a rate of 40%.

How do clubs earn their revenue?

RPL’s broadcast deal with the Saudi Sports Company was agreed earlier this year at a figure of 300 million Saudi riyals per year ($80m). The deal runs for three years, with TV revenue being split equally between the 16 clubs. In August, Roshan, a real estate developer, agreed a five-year deal worth 478 million riyals (£105m / $127m) for the naming rights to the Saudi Pro League. The club also makes money from a streaming deal with Dubai-based company Shahid.

Saudi Telecom and Saudi Arabian telecommunications company Mobily have agreed lucrative club sponsorships in recent years. Al Hilal’s shirt sponsor is Kingdom Holding Company, a 10.5 billion pound ($12.9 billion) Saudi conglomerate, while Etihad Airways – Abu Dhabi’s flag carrier – sponsors Al-Nasr. While Al Hilal, Al-Nasr and Al-Ittihad are all centrally owned by the Saudi Ministry of Sports, they are run independently and benefit personally from wealthy donors, including the Saudi royal family.

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How competitive is the league?

The Saudi Pro League is one of the most competitive in the region, and possibly even in the whole of Asia, due to the wealth of competition and the depth of the squads. In the past 10 years, the league has crowned five different champions (Al Hilal, Al-Nasr, Al Fateh, Al-Shabab, Al-Ahli). Each team is allowed up to eight international players, bringing the total number of foreigners this year to 128 from 48 different nationalities around the world. And the league also attracts high-profile coaches, with former Porto and Wolves coach Nuno Espirito Santo appointed as coach of Al-Ittihad and Rudi Garcia, former Roma. marseille And Lyon Koch, taking command of Al-Nassar. Former River Plate coach Ramon Diaz is Al Hilal’s manager.

Who are the most famous players to compete in Saudi Arabia before Ronaldo?

The Saudi Pro League is arguably still waiting for its first real superstar, but it has been able to attract some respected names. In addition to former United striker Ighalo, who joined Al Hilal from Al-Shabab earlier this year, players such as former Argentina Midfielder Ever Banega (Al-Shabab), Brazilian midfielder Paulinho (Al-Faha), ex-Porto striker Moussa Marega (Al-Hilal) and former armory And napoli goalkeeper david ospina (Al-Nasr) all play in Saudi Arabia.

In short, Ronaldo would be the biggest name ever to play in the Saudi Pro League if he moved to Al-Nassr.

So why would Ronaldo go to Saudi Arabia?

It certainly won’t be for the football challenge as Ronaldo has previously played in the Premier League, the Spanish LaLiga and Italyof Serie A, although he may be motivated by the prospect of helping Al-Nassr to stop Al Hilal’s dominance. If Ronaldo were to go there, Al Hilal would seem the more obvious destination: he would get the chance to play in the Asian Champions League with a chance to win it.

Money will also be an obvious motivation for a player of Ronaldo’s wealth and success, but there is also an additional element in Saudi Arabia’s desire to host the 2030 World Cup. While the state has yet to formally launch a bid, sources have told ESPN that as early as 2023 is likely; Who better to raise the profile of Saudi Arabian football than one of the two most recognizable footballers on the planet?

Saudi Arabia is already Lionel Messi are ramping up their tourism campaign, so if Ronaldo can be attracted to the Saudi Pro League, he will have a very clear face to boost his 2030 bid.



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